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Civic group to sever city ties

December 21, 2000

Civic group to sever city ties



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


One of the more active Hagerstown citizens' groups is ending its association with the city government to become an independent neighborhood organization, the group co-chairs said Wednesday.

The Neighborhoods 1st Downtown Chapter held an Easter parade and a summer carnival at the city ice rink, during the past year.

But the group co-chairs, Ted Bodnar and his wife Vicki Bodnar, say they can get more accomplished if the group is not tied to the city government.

Also, they were critical of proposed Neighborhoods 1st program guidelines, which the Bodnars said would give control of the groups to the city government, and limit some actions of the neighborhood groups.

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"The group can't endorse candidates if it's connected to the city. But it can if it's separate," Vicki Bodnar said.

"I never wanted (the group) to be part of the city (government)," said Ted Bodnar.

He said prompting change is easier for the neighborhood group if it's working outside the city government.

"You can't hold the city accountable for things if you're part of the city," Ted Bodnar said.

"The group will stay together and we'll still do projects for the city," said Ted Bodnar. He said the group will come up with a new name and apply for tax-exempt status.

Also, the Bodnars said the neighborhood groups should have been consulted, or at least informed, while the first draft of guidelines for the program were being written.

Larry Bayer, a city community development coordinator and the city staffer charged with overseeing the Neighborhoods 1st program, said the proposed guidelines are "simply a starting point."

"We decided we'll create it and then get input," Bayer said.

He said the situation is "not a problem."

"If they're going to form another group that works to (improve) the neighborhood that's fine," Bayer said.

But he also said, "If they think they can do it better not belonging to the group, maybe we need to look at the program a little bit."

The Neighborhoods 1st program began in February 1999, and now has five groups, not including the downtown group.

Each neighborhood group has $5,000 in the city budget to be used for neighborhood projects.

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